From Lee Teague, public relations director at the N.C. Public Charter Schools Association, in response to “Charter school movement corrupted by profit motive” (March 22 For the Record):
Whether it’s the people we associate with, the food we eat or the news we read, the trend for the past 60-plus years has been for more diversity and more individual choice. The charter school movement is part of that trend.
Charters were created to provide parents an alternative to the one-size-fits-all mentality that pervaded public education. Their diversity reflects this. There are charters that specialize in the arts, science and language immersion. There are charters whose mission is to lift struggling students, and some that offer a more rigorous preparation for college.
For those who cling to a one-size-fits-all mentality, a favorite tactic is to say things that they’ve never liked used to be good, but aren’t anymore. That is the tactic Linda Welborn, a member of a traditional public school board, used recently on these pages with her tirade against the “new charter school movement.”
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Parents are the best evaluators of whether their children receive a good education. They must choose for their kids to attend a charter. To Ms. Welborn, the parents of the 68,000 students already enrolled and the 44,000 more on waiting lists are bamboozled by marketing. But they can pull them out if they are not satisfied. And some do. Yet 85 percent of charters have waiting lists. Are all these parents so easily fooled?
Funds going to charter schools are transparent. A DPI division called the Office of Charter Schools is dedicated to charter oversight, as is the Charter Schools Advisory Board. Charters must adhere to a lengthy state contract. They cannot even access state dollars directly, but instead must provide documentation before the state pays their bills. There are surprise visits by OCS consultants, an annual audit by a CPA firm and detailed review under a framework designed only for charter schools. Nothing is going into “a black hole.”
Ms. Welborn is shocked that people earn money providing education. Generations of educators, administrators and education suppliers have earned their daily bread educating children. If they do a good job, God bless ’em. Good teachers earn every dime they make and more.
She is especially vitriolic against management companies. If a company can front money for a facility, manage a school well enough that parents send their children there, then still make a profit with access to only 75 percent of traditional schools’ per-pupil funds, more power to them.
Traditional public schools will be the overwhelming choice of parents. They are the core of our educational system and deserve our support. But we know that not every student learns the same way. We are better off when parents have a choice that meets their child’s individual needs. The advocates for traditional schools should welcome charters to relieve overcrowding and provide more educational opportunity, not attack them.